30 September 2009


A dysfunctional family is unlikely to be healed because some member decides to unify it with genealogy research! Still, persist! For you may just heal yourself in the process!

I've had students who were so lucky to have united family that documents seemed to arrive in their mail every week. They were able to create warm and fuzzy memory books with ease - never mind actual research. But announcing that you have a genealogy project - for the benefit of every family member - does not seem to cause cooperation when you need it, and you may find that some of your family informants will fall from their pedestals when your research proves that they are full of stories that are not true.

Such was the case when one student heavily relied on her aunt, the matriarch of the family. This matriarch spoke with authority and claimed credit for naming her siblings (some who proved to have been born before she was). She had also faked wedding dates to cover unplanned pregnancies and claimed a first wife had died rather than that there was a divorce and the kidnapping of a child.

She could be credited for INVENTING family, perhaps where there was none...

24 September 2009


Just watched the PBS video "Forgotten Ellis Island" about the immigrants who were kept at the hospital before being deported back to their home countries or released as well into their new country. It's a terrific video so I recommend you get a copy to watch! You'll see the decay of the buildings themselves...

The link abve goes to a web site for the hospital....

It's being refurbished!

21 September 2009


Ever wonder if your ancestor was rich or poor? Ever compare siblings in different states and notice that one owns a home worth $10,00o in one state, while another is renting for $50 a month? Just how rich is rich and how poor is poor? Real estate has always varied a lot by location.

I found a calculator on line that I like called The Dollar Times Inflation Calculator. I learned that ONE DOLLAR in 1930 is equal to $12.22 today. That means that one of my relations house in Jersey would cost $165,000 today. Now is that $165,ooo in Los Angeles (good luck finding that shack!) or a great middle class home in, well, Jersey!

Try this calculator and see what you think! Click on the title above or on the link to the right!

18 September 2009


More from ONE DROP by Bliss Broyard

From Page 315 of her book about discovering her "one drop" of African Ancestry;
Bliss' father Anatole Broyard, a New York literary critic, who became quite successful in his career, died having just revealed that he was from New Orleans Creole ancestry. Her search for her father and her heritage took her to archives and into interviews with previously unmet family members...

"When you love a family member of close friend, people tell you, to console you, that your loved one will always live on in your memories. They act as if this process occurs involuntarily; a biological trick to offset your grief, just as the brain suppresses traumatic memories that are too difficult to handle. Your friends don't tell you to record everything that your remember about the dead person because you will indeed forget many things over time. Nor do they warn you that your memories will become irreversibly mortared into a monument of the "dearly departed" --- some myth that your fashion to help organize your recollections to better retrieved them. Nor are you told about the contaminating influence of other people's stories, which seem all the more vivid compared to the familiar old statue in the corner of your brain. And absolutely no one will suggest that you might begin to wonder how well you knew your family member or close friend in the first place, now that it's too late to learn anything more firsthand."

12 September 2009


New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie 1850-1896
by Sven Beckert of Harvard University C 2001
Cambridge University Press

America as a "classless" society? Only perhaps, compared to the Old World. For by the mid 1800's class was very much forming in America, and the rich elite of New York set the tone for who was who, as the merchant class rose to meet the Old Families. Sexism? The role of women was to enhance their families lives, and create the refuge away from the business world, to create society and culture in their time.

(On page 39) "Beyond these distinct gender roles, merchants defined their shared world by the design of the family dwelling. Its layout served to create the illusion of a sphere removed from the harsh realities of the market - a world in which "gentlemen" could recover from the world of exchange. Thick carpets, heavy curtains, and ornate wallpaper insulated the abode from the outside world, offering a physical retreat from the noises, odors and visual blur of the metropolis. Portraits of living or deceased family members lined its walls, denoting continuity, tradition, and stability...."

(On page 40) ... 1855, the average upper class New York household (assessed to have more than $10,000 in wages paid), had only 2.3 servants. (Servants who appear on census records are usually LIVE IN servants by the way!)

The women were leading the way when it came to entertainments and charities. And raising their children to Upper Crust manners and norms.

(On page 154) "Nothing quite expressed the confidence of the city's merchants, industrialists, and bankers better than the blossoming of social life among the economic elite's wealthiest ranks after the Civil War. in a distinct departure from the antebellum years, social events of this select and powerful group became more elaborate and more public than ever before. The social season following the war - one historian has estimated - saw 600 balls, and the amount spent on dresses and jewelry for these affairs ran to about $7 million."

This was the advent of the society column and reporters! Flaunting wealth became acceptable. Money started to speak up for those who earned it! And the broke aristocrats of the Old World were happy to trade titles for the income of a newly rich American bride or groom. And so came the day when the Churchill family of England demanded more of a dowry from the Jerome's of New York... Yes Winston Churchill's mother, Jenny, was an American (from prior reading I learned she was part Native American!)

If you love studies of the American Class System as I do, this book is a must read for you!

09 September 2009

05 September 2009


It started with a hobbyists who liked to visit the graves of the famous, but this site has become a collaborative effort (no it's not a non-profit) which can sometimes help you find the gravestone (and thus valuable clues) of an ancestor. Of course the privacy of the alive families and of the dead is always a question for me.REMEMBER WHEN NO ONE TRAMPED ACROSS A GRAVE?

You can search without becoming a member and become a member and leave virtual flowers and testimony at no charge. For a small amount of money you can honor your ancestor by taking away the ADS from their memorial, or posting a better photo of their grave or them.

Finding a tombstone is one way to get around not having a census record for a person in 1940, 1950, etc.

02 September 2009


"Hold to your ancestors close to your heart like a beloved friend or family member. Do not take them for granted. They are your link to the spirit world and know when you stray from your true path or promises."